In a new low, even in Trump’s America, a group of faith leaders representing every major religion showed up at the Senate to protest the Republican tax reform legislation and for all their godly effort they were detained, handcuffed, and arrested – while they were praying.
It isn’t often that organized religious leaders join forces in opposition to Republicans, but in another sign the GOP’s tax reform giveaway to corporations and the ultra-wealthy is highly unpopular, another group of “faith leaders” joined a chorus of criticism against the Republicans. One thing that is universal in the great majority of religions is the idea of protecting the poor and the vulnerable, it was a major theme of Jesus Christ’s teaching and something ‘religious” Republicans vehemently oppose as un-American.
On Thursday, a group “faith advocates” gathered to protest the GOP legislation at the Hart Senate building. The head of a Christian social justice group “Sojourners,” Jim Wallis was joined by Barbara Williams Skinner of the National African American Clergy Network and a large group of clergy to pray and condemn “unjust rulers” using religious ideology right from the scriptures. The theme of the criticism was that the “bill is an assault on the poor and vulnerable” the multi-denominational clergy “are sworn to protect.”
Mr. Wallis actually quoted a passage from the GOP’s favorite part of the Christian bible, the Old Testament, that fairly describes what Republicans are attempting to do to the American people who aren’t corporations or members of the one percent. Wallis recited Isaiah 10:1 saying:
“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people.”
Police waited until after several other members of the clergy spoke out against the tax bill and then “detained, handcuffed, and escorted them away while they prayed.” So much for the GOP’s high regard for “religious freedom.”
The previous day a group of “more than 2,400 faith leaders” representing Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist and many other “faith traditions” signed a letter to Republican leaders in the Senate slamming the bill as “unjust.” In fact, the “clergy” listed several issues they opposed with special emphasis on how it was created to “disproportionately benefit the wealthy,’ explode the deficit and increase the number of uninsured Americans by millions.” The letter read, in part:
“As people of faith, we view decisions about tax policy and the federal budget as moral decisions. Simply put, this proposed legislation is fundamentally unjust. If it becomes law, it will result in harmful consequences for those most needing support so as to benefit high-income earners and big corporations.”
Several high-profile religious organizations, including the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and surprisingly, even the president of the National Association of Evangelicals joined the CEO of Catholic Charities USA and Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church to condemn the cruel bill. The National Council of Churches summed up briefly why a majority of Americans, whether they are religious or not, oppose the GOP’s tax reform bill:
“The tax bills currently before the US Congress are designed to make the rich richer and the poor poorer; and add $1.5 trillion to the national debt. These tax plans cannot be biblically defended.”
The tax bills cannot be “fiscally defended” either; but that isn’t stopping the Republican march towards transferring the treasury to corporations and the wealthy and burden the poor and middle class in the process. It is noteworthy to remind the clergy that their bible has no place in whether a tax plan can be defended; that theocratic remark ruined whatever positive “optics” the group hoped to shine on their worthy effort.
Now, although the faith leaders coming together to oppose this tax reform abomination is a kind gesture, as was the same group’s opposition to Trump’s immigration ban, repeal of DACA, and attempt at ending the Affordable Care Act, it is only a gesture and the religious leaders know it. The question a majority of those leaders have to answer before they will be taken seriously is why do they predominately support Republicans when they are well aware this particular “unjust” tax plan is the same as every other “unjust” Republican tax plan.
Without the reliable religious vote, Republicans would not control the House or the Senate or a growing majority of state legislatures. The only one reason the faithful support Republicans is because they pander to every faith and denomination that opposes women’s right to make their own reproductive choices. A fair number of the religious leaders condemning the Republican tax scam were also instrumental in aiding those same Republicans attack women’s rights over using birth control.
It is quite troublesome for a secular humanist to give much credence to some of these religious leaders because most of them know their efforts helped give Republicans control of Congress; all in a religious crusade to control women because doing so is “biblically defensible.” However, it is refreshing to see Republicans being assailed by their staunchest supporters for a change; not that it matters to Republicans who no doubt had some input in having the protestors arrested while they were praying for the wrong issue.